Seven Romances, Op. 47
High voice (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7), medium voice (No. 4) or baritone (No. 5), with piano accompaniment.
Movements and Duration
- If Only I Had Known (Кабы знала я)
Allegro moderato (C minor, 164 bars).
- Softly the Spirt Flew up to Heaven (Горними тихо летела луша небесами)
Andante con moto (E major, 73 bars).
- Dusk Fell on the Earth (На землю сумрак пал)
Allegro moderato (F major, 149 bars).
- Sleep, Poor Friend (Усни, печальный друг)
Andante non tanto (G-flat major, 75 bars).
- I Bless You, Forests (Благословляю вас, леса)
Andante sostenuto (F major, 72 bars).
- Does the Day Reign? (День ли царит)
Andantino—Allegro agitato (E major, 77 bars).
- Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (Я ли в поле да не травушка была?)
Moderato (F-sharp minor, 67 bars).
A complete performance of all seven romances lasts around 30 minutes.
1. Aleksey Tolstoy (1817–1875), from an untitled poem (1858):
Кабы знала я, кабы ведала,
2. Aleksey Tolstoy, from an untitled poem (1858):
Горними тихо летела душа небесами,
3. Nikolay Berg (1823–1884), from his poem Evening and Morning (Вечер и утро) (1860) — a translation from the Polish sonnet Ranek i wieczór in the collection Sonety odeskie (1826) by Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855):
На землю сумрак пал; не шелохнут кусты;
4. Aleksey Tolstoy, from an untitled poem (1856):
Усни, печальный друг, уже с грядущей тьмой
5. Aleksey Tolstoy from his poem John of Damascus (Иоанн Дамаскин) (1856):
Благословляю вас, леса,
6. Aleksey Apukhtin (1840–1893), from an untitled poem (1880):
День ли царит, тишина ли ночная,
7. Ivan Surikov (1841–1880), from his poem Little-Russian Melody (Малороссийская мелодия) (1870):
Я ли в поле да не травушка была,
In Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (No. 7) the second verse of the poem was omitted from the refrain.
It is possible that the romance Does the Day Reign? was the first of the Seven Romances to have been composed, in March 1880. According to Fyodor Malinin, Tchaikovsky created it for Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova. Following the dress rehearsal of a concert of Tchaikovsky's works, which took place in Saint Petersburg on 25 March/6 April 1880, and in which Panayeva-Kartsova took a principal role, Tchaikovsky was in conversation with Aleksey Apukhtin. Being a fervent admirer of the performer's singing talent, the composer asked the poet if he would dedicate one of his poems to her. In reply. " Apukhtin silently gestured that some notepaper was to be brought to him, upon which he jotted down some short verses in pencil. Tchaikovsky took these pages, and scanned through them before quickly leaving Apukhtin's home without a word; a day or two later he called on his friend again, bringing with him the romance, already composed" .
On 2/14 June 1880, Tchaikovsky wrote to Aleksandr Zhedrinsky: "I would like to remind you of your promise to send me some of Lel [Apukhtin]'s poems so I might set them to music... At the moment I feel disposed to write romances, would like to have Lel's verses" . The poems were sent to the composer in the middle of June . On 28 June/10 July, Tchaikovsky wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "I've lost my notebook with Apukhtin's poems and my sketches, and for the last few days we've been searching here in vain" , but on 10/22 July the composer informed Nadezhda von Meck: "I've begun to write something new" .
On 19/31 July, Tchaikovsky composed the romance Softly the Spirit Flew up to Heaven (No. 2), after becoming acquainted with Jules Massenet's Marie Magdeleine, "by far the most extraordinary thing is the duet between Christ and Magdalene, which in my opinion is a chef d'oeuvre. I was so moved by this deeply heart-felt music—in which Massenet succeeded in capturing the infinite goodness of Jesus—that I shed whole streams of tears... All day today I had this duet in mind while writing a romance to [Aleksey] Tolstoy's words: Softly the Spirit Flew up to Heaven, in which the melody owes something to Massenet" .
Tchaikovsky wrote to Sergey Taneyev: "Throughout this summer... I've worked very little, that is just some small vocal pieces in the form of romances and duets" . On 26 July/7 August the composer wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "I have written some romances; one of them  gives me immeasurable delight, but to spare my tears I mustn't play it" .
It appears that composition of the romances was completed in late July/early August 1880 since in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 31 July/12 August to 2/14 August he said he had begun the fair copies, together with the Six Duets, Op. 46 . In all probability the fair copies of the romances and duets were ready by 24 August/5 September . Tchaikovsky informed Nadezhda von Meck that he had finished the fair copies in a letter of 26 August/7 September to 31 August/12 September . On 30 August/11 September, Anatoly Tchaikovsky took the new compositions to give to Pyotr Jurgenson: " Anatoly is bringing you two new opuses: 1) 6 duets for singers. 2) 7 romances and songs" .
Two of the romances were later arranged for voice and orchestra by the composer.
In March 1883 Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya asked Tchaikovsky to orchestrate the romance Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (No. 7), through Sofya Malozemova. However, Tchaikovsky was occupied at that time with the composition of the cantata Moscow and the Coronation March, and was unable to fulfil her request. In a letter of 21 March/2 April 1883 to Sofya Malozemova, Tchaikovsky wrote: "How could I refuse? I am honoured and proud to oblige her and satisfy you, and as you rightly say that work will not take me very long—but combined with my fatigue through the strain of simultaneously composing the march and the cantata—I swear that I have no energy to take up a third task, even though it is straightforward work. I certainly will do it—but I beg you and Lizaveta Andreyevna not to be angry with me if I cannot orchestrate the romance just yet" .
On 20 February/9 March 1884, Tchaikovsky wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson from Paris: "Send the romance Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? to me at Kamenka right away. Last year I promised Lavrovskaya that I would orchestrate it and I still haven't done so. I need to do this as soon as I arrive" .
This date on the manuscript of the orchestration is 15/27 December 1884. However, this was certainly a mistake, since the work was passed by the censor on 15/27 September that year.
In 1888 the romance Does the Day Reign? (No. 6) was orchestrated by Tchaikovsky in Paris for the singer Marie de Benardaky. On 12/24 February, Tchaikovsky recorded in his diary: "Visited Benardaky. Busy orchestrating a romance" . However, the score of the arrangement was never published, and the manuscript has been lost.
In February 1891, Pyotr Jurgenson asked Tchaikovsky whether any of his romances had been arranged with orchestral accompaniment, and whether he wanted any of them to be so arranged . In his letter of reply of 19 February/3 March 1891, Tchaikovsky wrote that the full score of Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? was "with Lavrovskaya, but at my request she sent it to a singer in Paris, and it seems to have been lost — but it can be reconstructed from the parts" . In the same letter, Tchaikovsky expressed his general view that: "The romances are written to be accompanied by the piano, and do not require an orchestra" .
The romances Softly the Spirit Flew up to Heaven (No. 2) and I Bless You, Forests (No. 5) were performed, apparently for the first time, in Saint Petersburg – No. 2 by Feodosiya Velinskaya on 31 October/12 November 1881 in the fifth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, and No. 5 by Mikhail Koryakin on 14/26 November 1881 at the seventh symphony concert of the Musical Society.
The orchestral version of Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (No. 7) was performed by Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya on 27 December 1887/8 January 1888 in Saint Petersburg at the fourth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Leopold Auer.
Tchaikovsky's orchestration of Does the Day Reign? (No. 6) was performed by Marie de Benardaky with Edouard Colonne's orchestra on 16/28 February 1888 in Paris, at a musical evening in honour of Tchaikovsky, who also conducted.
The romances were published for the first time by Pyotr Jurgenson in March 1881 , and were included in volume 44 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1940), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin.
The orchestral version of Was I Not a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (No. 7) was published for the first time in 1960 in volume 27 of the Complete Collected Works, edited by Irina Iordan.
The whereabouts of the manuscripts of his later orchestral arrangements of Nos. 6 and 7 are unknown.
All the romances are dedicated to Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova.
The main theme of Was I a Little Blade of Grass in the Meadow? (No. 7) is based on a unnamed Ukrainian folk-tune.
- Cui, C. A. (1888)
- Medrish, I. D. (2015)
- Sheinberg, E. & Ritzarev, M. (2010)
Notes and References
- Fyodor Malinin, 'Apukhtin and Tchaikovsky' — manuscript in Klin House-Museum Archive. Quoted in (1958), p. 447.
- Letter 1507 to Aleksandr Zhedrinsky, 2/14 June 1880.
- See Letter 1519 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 28 June/10 July 1880.
- Letter 1520 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 28 June/10 July 1880.
- Letter 1533 to Nadezhda von Meck, 9/21–11/23 July 1880.
- Letter 1541 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 18/30–19/31 July 1880.
- Letter 1544 to Sergey Taneyev, 21 July/2 August 1880.
- "To marvellous words by Mickiewicz" — Tchaikovsky's note, referring to Dusk Fell on the Earth (No. 3).
- Letter 1551 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 26 July/7 August 1880.
- Letter 1552 to Nadezhda von Meck, 31 July/12 August–2/14 August 1880.
- See Letter 1565 to Sergey Taneyev, 15/27 August–24 August/5 September 1880.
- Letter 1571 to Nadezhda von Meck, 26–31 August/7–12 September 1880.
- Letter 1566 to Pyotr Jurgenson, mid/late August 1880.
- See Letter 1804 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15–4/16 July 1881.
- Letter 2243 to Sofya Malozemova, 21 March/1 April 1883.
- Letter 2247 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 26 February/9 March 1884.
- See (1923), p. 199.
- See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 18 February/2 March 1891 — Klin House Museum-Archive.
- A manuscript copy of this arrangement has survived, showing that it was scored for an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A), 2 bassoons, 4 horns (in F), violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses. The last 2 bars of the original romance were omitted from the arrangement.
- Letter 4334 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 19 February/3 March 1891.
- Passed by the censor on 25 February/9 March 1881.